I’m beyond thrilled to announce that the custom-designed matcha ceramics are finally here! Our humble little office has never looked happier, surrounded with boxes of these lovely little pieces . . . they’ll soon be featured on the all-new website, which I hope to launch in the second week of March, but if anyone is interested in pricing or other details, let me know.
This ceramics project started last fall, when I approached the renowned ceramicist Aletha Soule with an idea for custom-made matcha ceramics. Why did I need/want ceramics made for matcha? The internet is full of lovely matcha bowls — and some of them are really dazzling in their beauty — but those bowls are designed to accommodate traditional hand whisking of matcha; that is to say, you need a wide, shallow surface to properly whisk the matcha with a chasen, or traditional bamboo whisk. (They do make sensational oatmeal bowls, however.)
As many of you know, I vastly prefer the handheld electric whisk/milk frother to the bamboo one. The depth and extent of the crema/creaminess achieved with the Aerolatte (my preference, and the only one available at Breakaway Matcha) is leagues better than what is achievable with the traditional chasen. But if you try whisking matcha with the Aerolatte in a traditional matcha bowl, you end up with a very messy kitchen and a very green shirt, because the matcha just flies up and out of the bowl. So I needed a different shape, one that could accommodate electric whisking. You can see the shape and glaze colors we went with (which we’re calling blush, celedon, and eggshell) in the photo above. The shape allows you to whip up a perfectly frothed cup of matcha in just a few seconds. It then gets poured into these cups:
Aletha and I designed these cups to be off-center and slightly wabisabi; the glazes resemble a satin matte. The fit in the hand is ridiculously comfortable and right. The cups are the perfect size for matcha: slightly bigger than an espresso cup, but much smaller than a coffee cup. They have an off-center, asymmetrical design that not only feels great in the hand, it serves to highlight the beauty of the matcha.
It is sheer delight to slurp matcha from these things. I think matcha reaches its fullest potential when frothed in a creamer and then poured into small, preheated cups. I like to preheat them with boiling water as I wait for the water to cool a bit before making the matcha. They feel even better when they’re warm, and the tea stays warmer longer.
The breakaway approach to matcha has nothing to do with ceremonial procedures that are in fact a kind of proprietary intellectual property controlled by family lineages in Japan. I think of it more along the lines of how Italians feel about espresso: as a delicious, epicurean, and casual little treat/pick-me-up. We will eschew nearly all the customary rules regarding the preparation and enjoyment of matcha, and reinvent it entirely. In the same way that breakaway cooking breaks free from traditional culinary constraints, breakaway matcha aims to democratize matcha and to make it accessible to everyone who wishes to have an epicurean experience along the lines of a fine wine, except that it promotes wakefulness, not drowsiness, and happens to have — almost as an afterthought — off-the-charts health properties. But it’s important to distinguish culinary matcha — essentially everything for sale on the internet — from epicurean matcha meant only for drinking, not cooking. These ceramics are for the latter.
The culture of matcha is incredibly rich, and has a venerable history that is simply awesome in its beauty and relevance. But it can be, indeed must be, brought up to contemporary times, to be more suited to the way people live and work today. Enter these hauntingly beautiful ceramics, and “permission” to prepare the damn tea any way you like.